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A few months ago, I booked a trip to India on what became known as the Emirates Mistake Fare. JFK to Delhi for $226 is not shabby! I knew I would be paying more for travel vaccinations then the flight, which is pretty mind-boggling if you ask me.
It seemed inevitable that I would be paying over $500, but through some careful work, I am paying only a fraction of that – for the same quality vaccinations and with much less time spent in waiting rooms!
Please note, I am not a doctor and no information contained herein should take the place of consultation with a medical practitioner. However, once you know what you need for an upcoming trip, it is possible to do your own research to obtain the medications and vaccinations at an affordable price.
Since my travel is to India, my first step was to look up the recommendations for travel to India issued by the CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
The CDC lists three categories of recommendations:
- All travelers – You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Some vaccines may also be required for travel.
- Most travelers – Get travel vaccines and medicines because there is a risk of these diseases in the country you are visiting.
- Some travelers – Ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing, and if you are traveling from a country other than the US.
The CDC lists these vaccines as recommended for some travelers: Hepatitis B, Malaria, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis and Yellow Fever. I will only be visiting two cities, no rural areas, and my stay will be short, less than one week. The only medication from this list which I might need is Malaria Prophylaxis. Though it is not rainy season (i.e., mosquito season), I’ve decided to err on the side of caution and take it.
I initially asked my internist about travel vaccinations, but she quickly informed me she does not handle that. She referred me to a practice specializing in travel medicine. They do not accept insurance. They charge approximately $125 fee to walk in the door, and $125 for each vaccination. Thus, getting the Hepatitis A vaccine (2 shots) and the Typhoid vaccine, would cost a minimum of $500. The price to go to other Travel Doctors is New York City is comparable. I did some research and asked friends for advice. There’s a free clinic somewhere in the middle of Brooklyn, but you have to sit and wait for hours and then fudge it and say the vaccine isn’t for travel. I wasn’t comfortable with that. Others recommended university clinics, or getting vaccinated out-of-state and/or out of country.
I was under the (mistaken) impression that none of the vaccines were covered by my insurance. Then I phoned my health insurance company (something I should have done immediately after looking at the CDC website!). VOILA! I found out that:
- Hepatitis A – The Hepatitis A vaccine is covered under my insurance plan – so getting the shot from a participating medical provider might cost only a co-payment, rather than $250.
- Typhoid – The typhoid vaccine, which can be administered either by injection or orally, is not covered by either my health insurance or my prescription medication plan.
- Malaria -Malaria prophylaxis medication is covered by my prescription medication plan.
Regarding the typhoid vaccine, it does not appear that one form is better than the other. (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/
Malaria prophylaxis medication (more pills), which is covered by my insurance, costs only $5 on my plan.
I learned that some Duane Reade Pharmacies (Walgreens) have Walk-in facilities. These Walk-in centers do participate in my insurance plan. Yesterday morning, on my way to work, I stopped in at the Duane Reade right near my subway station. The receptionist asked me to fill out forms, and then I went into a clean medical room where I met the nurse practitioner. After some review, she administered the Hepatitis A vaccine and called in a prescription for the pills for the Typhoid Vaccine and Malaria Prophylaxis to my pharmacy.
The cost – nearly $80 for the Typhoid and Malaria pills. I was not even charged a $20 co-pay for the Walk-In visit and the Hep A shot, but I think that might still be a possible charge.
It took me a lot more time to write this post than to get vaccinated!
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